Back to School

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Mark Bittner speaking to a class at Meadowbrook Christian SchoolI was asked to present sales and marketing at the Career Day at Meadowbrook Christian School. The School Administrator along with several of the staff and school families have built homes with Fine Line Homes and we wanted to be supportive.

I remember a long time ago when I was in High School and trying to figure out a direction for my career. It seemed like everyone else knew what they wanted to do. Typically you heard “I want to be a Policeman” or “I want to become a Doctor”. Don’t recall anyone, including myself, considering sales so I was surprised when 16 students signed up. They were very attentive, asked good questions and we ended the class with the same number of students we started with so thought that was a good sign.

You need to believe in your product to be successful in selling. For over 30 years I have had the privilege of representing Fine Line Homes and had them build three homes for my family along the way.

9 Easy Mistakes Home Owners Make on Their Taxes

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By: G. M. Filsko – Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

tax returnDon’t rouse the IRS or pay more taxes than necessary — know the score on each home tax deduction and credit.

Sin #1: Deducting the wrong year for property taxes
You take a tax deduction for property taxes in the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind — that is, you’re not billed for 2013 property taxes until 2014. But that’s irrelevant to the feds. Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in 2013, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, tax manager at the Cincinnati accounting firm of Burke & Schindler, has seen home owners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.

Sin #2: Confusing escrow amount for actual taxes paid
If your lender escrows funds to pay your property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed, says Bob Meighan, CPA and vice president at TurboTax in San Diego. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two. For example, your tax bill might be $1,200, but your lender may have collected $1,100 or $1,300 in escrow over the year. Deduct only $1,200. Your lender will send you an official statement listing the actual taxes paid. Use that. Don’t just add up 12 months of escrow property tax payments.

Sin #3: Deducting points paid to refinance
Deduct points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage in full for the year you bought your home. However, when you refinance, says Meighan, you must deduct points over the life of your new loan. If you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $133 per year.
Sin #4: Misjudging the home office tax deduction
This deduction may not be as good as it seems. It’s complicated, often doesn’t amount to much of a deduction, has to be recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your home, and can pique the IRS’s interest in your return. Hampton’s advice: Claim it only if it’s worth those drawbacks. If so, here’s what to know about what you can write off.

Sin #5: Failing to repay the first-time home buyer tax credit
If you used the original home buyer tax credit in 2008, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years. If you used the tax credit in 2009 or 2010 and then sold your house or stopped using it as your primary residence, within 36 months of the purchase date, you also have to pay back the credit. The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe.

Sin #6: Failing to track home-related expenses
If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. Many people forget to track home office and home maintenance and repair expenses, says Meighan. File away documents as you go. For example, save each manufacturer’s certification statement for energy tax credits and lender or government statements to confirm property taxes paid.

Sin #7: Forgetting to keep track of capital gains
If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to pay capital gains taxes on any profit. You can exclude $250,000 (or $500,000 if you’re a married couple) of any profits from taxes. So if your cost basis for your home is $100,000 (what you paid for it plus any improvements) and you sold it for $400,000, your capital gains are $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains. However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523.

Sin #8: Filing incorrectly for energy tax credits
If you made any eligible improvements in 2013 — such as installing energy-efficient windows and doors, you may be able to take a 10% tax credit (up to $500; with some systems your cap is even lower than $500). But keep in mind, it’s a lifetime credit. If you claimed the credit in any recent years, you’re done. Fill out Form 5695. The first part of the form, which covers systems eligible for a larger tax credit through 2016, such as geothermal heat pumps, can be complex and involves crosschecking with half a dozen other IRS forms. Read the instructions carefully.

Sin #9: Claiming too much for the mortgage interest tax deduction
You can deduct mortgage interest only up to $1 million of mortgage debt, says Meighan. If you have $1.2 million in mortgage debt, for example, deduct only the mortgage interest attributable to the first $1 million.

This article was original published in Jan. 2011.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

G. M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer. A frequent contributor to publications including Bankrate, REALTOR Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, personal finance, and legal topics.

9 Ways to Increase Daylighting to Fend Off Seasonal Affective Disorder

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By: Dave Toht – Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Adding skylights, solar light tubes, windows, and other means of daylighting can brighten your winter and help alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What’s seasonal affective disorder?
Bears aren’t the only ones with the urge to hibernate. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a big-time case of the winter blues — a very real type of depression. It affects as much as 20% of the U.S. population, spiking among people living in northern latitudes. Surveys show that less than 5% of people in southernmost states, such as Arizona and Florida, experience symptoms, while in a northern city like Seattle, more than 30% of the population cites the ill effects of SAD. The symptoms include: low energy, oversleeping, poor concentration, irritability, avoidance of social situations, craving for sweet or starchy foods, with consequent weight gains

How your house can help
Turning on a few extra lamps is a natural response, but what your body really craves is more daylight — simply switching on a few more lights won’t do the trick. Typical artificial light can’t hold a candle to the power of daylight. For example, standard indoor lamps produce only 100 to 1,000 lux (a measurement of light intensity). Compare that to the 50,000 to 100,000 lux of a sunlit sky. Even an overcast day can pack 10,000 to 25,000 lux. That’s why good interior lighting, although cheering, doesn’t get to the heart of our biological need. Instead, you need to boost the daylight inside your home, known as daylighting. Try these methods:

1. Trim tree branches and shrubs that block sunlight. An added benefit: cutting back foliage so it’s at least 2 feet away from your house helps prevent water damage to your roofing and siding. Cost: $50 for pruning tools.

2. Add a solar light tube. A 10- to 14-inch reflective solar tube is a relatively simple way to bring outdoor light into otherwise dim areas of your home, such as hallways. Cost: $500, installed on a one-story house.

3. Add a skylight to your home. A skylight provides 30% more light than a window. Cost: $2,500 and up, installed.

4. Add windows. If you have the wall space, consider letting in more daylight with a new window. Cost for a 3-by-5-foot window: $1,000 to $1,500, installed.

5. Add a bay or bow window. These windows bring in a lot of light and give a room a sense of spaciousness. Cost: $5,000 and up, installed.

6. Replace a solid exterior door with an all- or partial-glass door, or a door with glass sidelights. An upscale door replacement is $5,000 to $10,000.

7. Open curtains and blinds so they don’t block natural light. Make a habit of opening your window coverings first thing in the morning. Cost: $0

8. Rearrange furniture in your living room, office, or den so you’ll be closer to bright windows. Place large pieces of furniture against walls so they don’t block light. Cost: $0

9. Get outside. Whenever possible, take a long walk or tackle an outdoors chore. Cost: $0

Professional help

Sufferers whose symptoms get in the way of enjoying normal activities should consult a physician or therapist. Medication, behavioral therapy, and treatments using a special 10,000-lux light therapy lamp are often prescribed.

Dave Toht has written or edited over 60 books on home repair and remodeling for The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Better Homes & Gardens, Sunset, and Reader’s Digest. He’s a former contractor with decades of hands-on experience.


What You Should Know About Your Home and Your 2013 Taxes

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By:Dona DeZube – Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

tax returnIt’s the last year for three sweet home tax benefits, but the first for a way simpler home office deduction.

These days few things start a fight on Capitol Hill faster than taxes. Despite the fact that three important tax benefits used by millions of American homeowners are days from expiring, Congress is unlikely to do anything to re-up them any time soon.

So if you’re eligible, tax year 2013 is possibly the last time to claim the private mortgage insurance (PMI) deduction, the energy tax credit, and debt forgiveness benefit, all of which all expire on Dec. 31, 2013. At least there’s one piece of good news for homeowners: If you have a home office, there’s a new, simpler option for calculating the home office deduction for which you may qualify on your 2013 taxes. Meanwhile, here’s what you need to know about those expiring benefits as you ready your taxes:

PMI Deduction

This tax rule lets you deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance, which is what you pay your lender each month if you put down less than 20% on a home. PMI protects the lender if you default on the home loan. Your deduction could amount to a couple hundred dollars depending on your tax bracket and other factors. Find out if you qualify for and how to take the PMI deduction.

Energy-Efficiency Upgrades

This sweet little tax credit lets you offset what you owe the IRS dollar-for-dollar for up to 10% of the amount you spent on certain home energy-efficiency upgrades, from insulation to water heaters. On the downside, the credit is capped at $500 (less in some cases). But on the bright side, the right improvement could lower your utility bills indefinitely.

Debt Forgiveness

When you go through a short sale, foreclosure, or deed-in-lieu, your lender typically lets you off the hook for some or all of what you owe on your mortgage. That forgiven mortgage debt is income, on which you’d typically have to pay income tax. Suppose you’re in financial distress and your lender agrees to let you short-sell your home, say for $50,000 less than you owe on the mortgage, and forgive you for the balance. Without the protection of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act, you’ll owe income tax on that $50,000. It’s likely if you had the money to pay income tax on $50,000, you’d have used it to pay your mortgage in the first place.

New Simplified Option for the Home Office Deduction

This may be the last year for the benefits above, but a new one kicks in for the 2013 tax year. If you work from home, you may qualify to use a new, simplified option for claiming the home office deduction when you file your 2013 taxes. How much simpler is it? It lets you claim $5 per sq. ft. for up to 300 sq. ft. instead of having to compute the actual expenses of your home office using a 43-line form. To calculate the square footage of your office, just multiply the length of two walls. For example, an 8-by-10-foot room is 80 sq. ft. And at $5 per, that’s $400. Although using the simplified option is obviously easier, the basic requirements for claiming the home office deduction haven’t changed. Your home office still must be used for business purposes:
• Exclusively, and on a regular basis.

Dona DeZube has been writing about real estate for more than two decades. She lives in a suburban Baltimore Midcentury modest home on a 3-acre lot shared with possums, raccoons, foxes, a herd of deer, and her blue-tick hound.

How to Access Your Walk-in closet?

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Everyone loves the extra storage and convenience of a walk-in closet. What is up for discussion is where to locate the access door?

The Edison shows owners bedroom with walk-in closet entry from the bedroom

Owners bedroom with walk-in closet entry from the bedroom

The “Edison” plan shows the door entering directly from the bedroom. This is most convenient but reduces precious wall space for a dresser.

The Westbury with the walk-in closet entry from the bathroom.

The Westbury with the walk-in closet entry from the bathroom.

The “Westbury” plan illustrates another option. The closet door is moved to the bathroom. This minimizes distracting noise and disruption especially important if your spouse is still trying to sleep. Some have concerns over moisture in the closet so running the exhaust fan is very important.

The Prescott with walk-in closet entry in the short hallway between the bedroom and bathroom.

The Prescott with walk-in closet entry in the short hallway between the bedroom and bathroom.

A third option is revealed with the “Prescott” plan. This utilizes a short hallway from the bedroom to both the closet and the bathroom. This design addresses all concerns with privacy and maximizes wall space for furniture placement.

Introducing Our New Line of Cabinets

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kitchen with yorktowne cabinetsAt Fine Line Homes, we are excited to announce new kitchen and bathroom cabinets from Yorktowne Cabinetry.

The new line is called the Classic Series. We have the same custom look with staggered height and staggered depth but with the Classic Series we are now offering as a standard feature soft close drawers and doors, full extension drawers, and plywood sides on all cabinets exposed on the ends.

There are 24 door styles to choose from with raised panels and flat panels in Maple, Oak, Hickory, Cherry, and a new species, Knotty Alder Pine. The Knotty Alder offers a refreshing character to your kitchen. There are many stains and painted options available as well.

We invite you to visit one of the model homes near you so you can experience yourself how we have raised the bar in cabinetry. You’ll love entertaining friends and family in your new home with the “must have” kitchen.

Single Level Living – Fenwick Ranch Home Plan

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Baby Boomers are at the forefront of building one level homes. We are tired of going up and down stairs but don’t want to give up the street appeal or the space of a two story. Fine Line Home’s Fenwick ranch home plan has an incredible roof line with high pitched hip roof and (3) front gables. The shake siding in the gables add a Craftsman style flair. Match that with an optional third car garage and headers with keystones above front windows and garage door and you have a stunning exterior.

Walk into the spacious foyer before you enter the grand living room with 9’ – 6” high ceiling. There is an enormous rear foyer with space to put your boots, a bench, and even a drop zone for all those day to day items you want to drop somewhere before entering your kitchen. The laundry room is so spacious that you are able to dry your clothes on racks with the cool breeze coming through the window.

The kitchen is large with an island as a second eating option and a huge walk-in pantry. Dinette flows directly into the living room for a totally open feel. The final touch is an Owner’s suite which caters to those who want privacy and lots of closet space.

Enjoy the adjacent floor plan and picture yourself in this stunning ranch home.

Married 80 Years and Still Counting

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married 80 yearsVisited longtime friends, Clayt and Beatrice Herb. Clayt is 98 and Beatrice 95. They have the current distinction of the longest married couple in PA. What an inspiration in modeling a long term marriage relationship for over 80 years.

Longevity is important in business as well. Through a successful relationship with customers, employees, subcontractors and suppliers, Fine Line Homes is celebrating 42 years of building homes in Central and Northeast PA and the Southern Tier of NY.

Seems like long term relationships are not as common these days. I’m very blessed to be married for 39 years and employed by Fine Line Homes for over 30 years.

Zero Clearance Gas Fireplace w/ Entertainment Pre-Wire Package

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Family Room flat Screen TVWe build many homes today with Zero Clearance Gas Fireplaces added in the Living Room or Family Room for style and function.

When doing this another option to consider is adding our TV Entertainment Pre-wire Package.

This package will allow you to install a Wall Mount TV above the Fireplace without having any wires exposed giving you a seamless clean look. This package includes a recessed electrical outlet, HDMI Cable, TV Cable and speaker wires buried in the walls to make installing your surround sound system a breeze.

By combining this option with a fireplace it creates one focal point to arrange your furniture around.

For more information on this please contact a Housing Consultant at your local Fine Line Homes location.

A Special Place for Our Furry Family Members

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dog photoHere at Fine Line Homes we know man’s best friend or purring buddy is actually a family member in any household.

We also know that proper bathing and grooming of this family member can be a killer on your lower back let alone leaving a messy clean up your tub afterwards.

pet center smallTo help combat that Fine Line Homes has an optional Pet Center Woman-Centric feature.

This allows your loved one to have their own bathing station with a hand shower and grooming center which will allow for easier bathing and cleanup. Please feel free to speak to one of our housing consultants today about our Pet Center feature today.

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